Tutorial: Add a Mandarin Collar to a Keyhole Neckline Tunic

Hey, folks! A follower recently asked how I added the orange collar seen in my sew a keyhole neckline with a facing tutorial. I shared the process with my Facebook friends a few years ago, so I thought I would update those old photos and descriptions and share them with you here! They’re quick and dirty, but it will help you get the idea of how to add a mandarin collar to a keyhole neckline.

Your finished neckline will look something like this, if you sew your facing to the inside. If you prefer a decorative contrast facing, you can sew the facing so it folds to the outside, like this!

Right, let’s go!

#1. Prepare your facing piece as normal.

Finish the edges with serging (or a zigzag stitch, or whatever you like) so it won’t unravel.

If you don’t know how to sew keyhole necklines with facings, refer to this tutorial here to learn!

#2. Cut out the inside of your keyhole’s facing. 

I don’t normally do this at this point when I’m sewing tunics without collars, but this time, it’s necessary.

DO NOT cut the slit of the keyhole at this time.

#3. Trace that hole in your neckline facing onto the body of your garment. 

(The photo below should be rotated, but you can see that about 2/3rds of the neckline is forward of the shoulders, because that’s how our bodies are built.) Cut this out, too.

DO NOT cut the slit of the keyhole now, either.

Handle both your facing and cut neckline delicately, as these can stretch out of shape if you tug at them too much, and then they won’t match when you go to sew them together.

#4. Make your collar pattern.

There are a couple of different ways you could do this. You could sew a collar that’s just a straight band, but the top edge won’t want to follow the neck, Something with a bit of curve is trickier to sew and attach, but it will fit the neck more closely and be more inclined to stay standing up.

I used this method for drafting the curved collar.

The line with arrows is supposed to be the grainline. It shows me how to lay my pattern out on the bias. This isn’t necessary, but it’ll curve around the neck more happily. The tutorial illustrates this better.

The writing on my pattern says ‘Mandarin Collar For Tunics, Cut 2 self on bias, blockfuse.’ This means that I’ll cut two pieces out of my main fabric to sew into the collar, while “blockfuse” refers to the interfacing I’ll add. 

NOTE: My pattern looks funky because I decided that the top curve didn’t follow the neck closely enough: I wanted it to be shorter, while keeping the bottom the same length. To do this, I cut the pattern apart in the middle and pivoted it together. This took a little wedge out of the center back of the collar, while keeping the bottom edge the same, so it can still be stitched to the tunic.

#5. Add interfacing to your two collar pieces.

I’m going to add some interfacing to my collar, which will help it stay stiff and stand upright. I used a lightweight fusible knit interfacing. I could have used a heavier interfacing, but this was  what I had sitting around.

Because cutting out your fabric in the pattern piece, and then cutting out your interfacing, and trying to fit the two together is HORRIBLE AND MURDEROUS, I have instead fused interfacing to a bit of extra fabric. I’ll cut my collar pieces out from the pre-fused fabric. This is called “blockfusing,” and it’s WAY easier.

More on blockfusing here, if you’re a nerd who enjoys these things. I certainly am!

Here’s my pattern piece laid out on the pre-fused interfacing. I’ll cut out two of these.

#6. Construct your collar.

Since we’ve last met, I’ve cut out my two fused collar pieces and stitched them together with a 1/4″ seam allowance, right sides together, along the top edge and sides of the collar, leaving the bottom open. This edge is what gets sewn to the body of the tunic.

#8. Trim the points of your collar.

The points of the collar can get bulky, so it’s wise to clip them down a little. Doing this will let the points turn better: they’ll look sharper once you flip the collar right side out.

#8. Turn your collar inside-out and press it nicely. 

Baste the edge of the collar shut with long stitches, using a narrow seam allowance. Mine is probably too wide, but that’s okay– I’ll have to pick those basting stitches out later, so they won’t be visible.

#9. Pin your collar to that raw hole we cut in the body of the garment and sew together.

You’ll be pinning right sides together. Don’t worry about the raw edge, we’ll add the facing and enclose all the raw edges with that. Use lots of pins. Make sure the collar meets at the center front with maybe a 1/8″ gap, and matches up with the center back points.

Sew carefully at a 1/4″ seam allowance. It’s probably easiest to sew this with the collar, not the body of the garment, facing up.

The collar will NOT want to squash flat, but that’s a good sign– it means that the interfacing we added is keeping it perky. Just sew slowly, and everything will be okay! Remember that the collar only has to match the body at the edge of the cut hole– it can misbehave all it likes beyond that, because that’s the only point we’ll be sewing down.

Here’s what the tunic will look like when you’re done sewing the collar to the body. (Excuse the beach towel– I needed an impromptu ironing board while my main one was out of commission!)

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Note that you’re looking at the tunic from the OUTSIDE. We need to cover up that raw edge with the facing, so it won’t fray. 

#11. Pin your facing on from the right side of the garment and sew the keyhole facing as normal.

This looks super weird, but I promise everything is right sides together: the collar just didn’t want to lay flat for the photo. This is fine!

To clarify, from the top down, the layers go like this: facing, collar, actual garment body. (At the keyhole slit, it’s just 'facing, garment,’ because there’s no collar there to work around.) 

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Sew the keyhole facing with the facing piece on top, like this.

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#12. Do these finishing steps, and you’re done!

Once it’s all sewn together, you’ll cut the slit open, flip the facing to the inside of the garment, leaving the collar on the right side, trim away some bulk at the seam allowance, and do some topstitching. Basically, we’re almost done!

Topstitch the facing, so it won’t flip out from the wrong side. I also edgestitched the keyhole slit and stitched in the crack between the collar and the body.

And that’s all!

Going further: hoods and external facings with collars

If you would like to use this method for adding a collar to a tunic with a decorative facing on the OUTSIDE, the steps are identical– you’ll just start from the WRONG side of the tunic, not the right/outside. 

You can also use this method to finish the raw edge of a neckline you want to add a hood to. But that, as they say, is an exercise left for the reader.

Thanks for reading, and happy sewing! Let me know if you make a collar like this– I would be thrilled to see what you come up with!


Ilsa of Drentha